Panigrahi Puts Out
It wasn't pretty, but the Birds' parking the proverbial bus at Fossil Park helped them to limit Club Dinosauria to three goals - well, that and the hosts sticking with distance shooting. Either way, it was definitely an improvement from last week, and there would be flashes of brilliance from the youngsters. Bhavya Panigrahi
also exhibited courage in playing on after sustaining a painful chest injury towards the end of the first half, on top of putting in a relatively good defensive shift.
There would be loud cheers from the small travelling group as Kalki Parvathaneni
was re-introduced to all, although they surely understood what was likely to happen next, on last week's evidence. Heng Ah Wei's side would not deviate from their usual tack despite the Birds looking unlikely to be able to handle a more-attacking setup, and Grilled would respond with an unabashed full-on press.
This actually worked pretty well for the initial half-hour or so, with Deinos' men left with little space to attempt proper shots - or forward passes, if it came to that. Their only attempt of note, towards the end of this period by Cheah Eng Dong, would be easily gathered and collapsed upon by Dimitris Germanakos
. The Birds' increased confidence would be their undoing, sadly, as Aw Keng Chuan
advanced too far, in trying to compress play. The counter laid bare the deficiencies of their centrebacks in raw pace, with wingback Alejandro Pérez Ponce coming through the middle for 1-0.
As usual, the Birds were unable to keep it going as the half wound to a close, which had them repeatedly fouling around their own box to break up play; fortunately, Cuban referee Edgardo Lucente kept his cards in his pocket. The first two free-kicks came to naught, but had Bhavya Panigrahi
suffer a counter-barge by Ong Chao Ah, as he defended Ong's advance. It wouldn't matter in the end as Ong scored from the next one, but Panigrahi's bravery would not be missed by the Grilled supporters in the stands.
went for a double substitution for the second half, with Lim off for Chia as usual, but also Enrique Baena
- unusually subdued down the right flank - leaving for Paulino Trindade
. That left Teo Chuan Yong
still doubled up on the other wing, and there would be no keeping Fokko Schlattmeier down forever. Abd El Rahman Abd El Khalek would call out on the inside, and once the pass got through, he was always going to get it on target at least. Germanakos came close to blocking, but it went in off his glove.
Three-nil would be how it ended, with Grilled surviving with a combination of dogged defending, good goaltending, and possibly less-than-ideal shot selection from the Deinos side. Abd El Rahman's goal would be followed by it being moved about the boundary of the penalty area with several players foregoing open looks, before it got played in to main striker Faust Salvans - who slid as he scooped it over the crossbar.
It would be Germanakos' turn to rescue his dipping reputation somewhat, as he then put in a great two-fisted block against Fokko Schlattmeier's drive from close range, and then seemed to get a vital touch on Cheah's prospective chip, before it grazed the bar. There would finally be a bit of a perk-up for the Birds fans five minutes from time, as Kalki Parvathaneni
made his return, by sharing an emotional embrace with longtime friend and teammate Bilal Mohammad Harun
on Tian's third and final sub. Of course, it was not going to affect the result, but the Birds did need all the feel-good stories they could get.